The title of “Taken 2” tells you pretty much all you need to know about the film itself, especially if you’ve seen “Taken,” the low budget sleeper hit of 2008. To review, in the original, starring Liam Neeson as ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills and Maggie Grace as his teenage daughter, Kim, the girl is kidnapped in Paris by a gang of Albanian sex slave traffickers. Cutting a wide swath through a never-ending field of bad guys, Bryan single-handedly saves her from a fate worse than death. He returns his wayward child to the arms of her distraught mother, Lenore (Famke Janssen), from whom he is divorced.
“Taken 2” opens with the patriarch of the Albanian family (Croatian actor Rade Serbedzija) vowing revenge as he buries his sons. Cut to L.A., where Bryan is not so patiently trying to help Kim pass her (twice-failed) driver’s license test—a not so small plot point, as it develops. Things work out so that Bryan asks Lenore and Kim to join him after he finishes up a security gig in Istanbul.
Those who know their geography will recall that Turkey is right near Albania and wonder about Bryan’s judgment. Sure enough, a small army of Albanian thugs breaks up the family idyll, only this time they take Bryan and Lenore while Kim barely escapes. Lucky for her, she has a new iPhone, and Bryan has her on speed dial. Writer/producer Luc Besson stretches our credulity well past the breaking point as the hyper-focused Bryan schools the kid in the adroit use of hand grenades to find where Mom and Dad have been, umm, taken.
From there, it’s basically a series of foot and car chases over the rooftops and through the streets of Istanbul, punctuated by shootings, stabbings, garrotings, and a good old fashioned taste of mano a mano martial arts. One loses track of the body count, the Albanians displaying the usual poor marksmanship of minimum wage thugs. Neeson’s transformation from serious actor to action hero at age 60 is heartening for those us in the same age bracket, even while we wonder if his “particular set of skills” is shared by a stunt double. And Kim’s display of driving skills indicates that she must have flunked the parallel parking but aced the road test.
Director Olivier Megaton (nope, not his real name), who is best known for “Transporter 3,” keeps the action sufficiently fast and furious that we can only be amazed or guffaw at the sheer preposterousness of it all. The editing and thrumming soundtrack may recall the “Bourne” saga, though the dialogue surely will not. The production values in general are superior to “Taken”—surely there was more upfront money involved—but that’s about it.
“Taken 2” is somewhat liberally rated “PG-13” for “intense sequences of violence and action and some sensuality,” this latter item occurring in some torture scenes that I wouldn’t recommend for pre-teens. Fans of the first movie in what looks like a series will likely enjoy this sequel, though it lacks the clarity and tension of its predecessor. Everyone else, not so much.